Anne McHale is an MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the FoodCorps team in Glendive, MT.

For a FoodCorps member like myself, partnerships are an absolute godsend and often a real surprise. This is especially the case in my work with the 7th Day Adventist Valley View Christian School, where 20-30 enrolled and homeschooled students come together to attend Enrichment and “Wilderness Days” (the quote because farming isn’t really “wilderness” in the strictest sense, but we make it work).

In the 7th Day Adventist tradition, the human body is regarded as a temple of the holy spirit and adherents take very seriously the responsibility of treating their health with the appropriate reverence-  making the school ideal and, excuse the pun, fertile ground for Farm to School efforts.  My work there has challenged my preconceptions and has afforded mental calisthenics as I attempt to adjust and refine my messages to resonate with students and their parents who are arriving at local food via channels very different from those I traveled.

To date we’ve had a cooking class where the students attempted to trace their food to its origins and a unit on vermiculture (worm composting). To say the worms stole the show is an understatement.  I would actually go so far as to say that kids love worms almost as much as they do not love squash, and at this meat-free school, it was easy to set some ground rules about what food items are appropriate to feed the worms.

The nice thing about starting a farm to school program with composting, whether it’s vermiculture, bokashi or cold composting, or more traditional methods, is that the students develop a ground-up appreciation of what it takes to produce food. In class we talked about the things we eat and how they are all ultimately connected to soil. When I asked the kids, who learn in mixed-age groups, where pepperoni comes from, I got the feeling some hadn’t made the connection that pepperoni is a product of, ultimately, pigs. The dawning realization was awesome to witness as it played across their faces.

On the other hand, many of these kids come from farming families even if the family farm is a couple generations removed. Discovering cross-over and commonalities with folks out here in Eastern Montana is what motivates me day to day and it adds further legitimacy to the point I often make in presentations: Farm to School is not a coastal import. It’s not the exclusive domain of secular urban elitists. Farm to School works in Glendive because we’re promoting deeply rooted values like independence, hard work and self determination. And Glendivians get it.